How do you say goodbye to a support animal when you need him the most?

NORWOOD, Mass. — Four-legged friends often help us through the hardest times in our lives and right now is no exception.

The power of a pet to put a smile on your face is especially true when it comes to kids. There's just something truly special about a dog's love and loyalty.

And they don’t come much more loyal than Monty the Labrador. Monty has been a loyal friend to the kids who have relied on him for support and comfort through the years at Learning Solutions in Norwood, a social services agency that provides counseling, social behavior and executive function coaching, speech and applied behavioral analysis therapy to kids with social, emotional and developmental needs.

These days, Monty has spent his time on video chats with those kids to help them through these scary times.

“Our clients and kids are experiencing stress over the lack of structure [because of the Pandemic]. The changes to the routines and just their anxiety in general about when school will be back,” explained Monty’s handler and Learning Solutions founder Tracey Stoll.

Westwood third grader Ava Rooney suffers from anxiety, but Monty has been helping her manage her feelings.

"I feel calm and happy with Monty," Ava explained.

Ava’s mom says she’s noticed Ava has become a lot more calm thanks to Monty.

“She was getting more comfortable in certain social situations,” her mother commented.

Monty also works with children with developmental disabilities and social, emotional and behavioral challenges, and went through extensive training to become NEADS certified. That stands for National Education for Assistance Dog Services.

But since the pandemic hit, Tracey noticed Monty wasn't acting like himself.

Sadly, Monty, who is only 5 years old, was diagnosed with a rare genetic liver condition that is incurable.

So Monty and Tracey have spent the past week video chatting with all of Monty’s kids, to give each one a chance to say goodbye in his or her own way.

Saying goodbye to a pet is a tough lesson for any child but saying goodbye to a support animal during the uncertainty and stress of a pandemic seems cruel.

Monty’s love is something these kids will carry with them long after this is all over.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help with Monty’s medical bills because Learning Solutions had already taken a hit from the pandemic before they were hit with the surprise vet bills.

Tracey says a lot of the kids have been asking if she will consider getting a new service dog when Monty is gone. She says she will when the time feels right.

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